Lucy Fest Brings More Laughter to Jamestown

Downtown Jamestown Mural by artist Gary Peters Jr.

Article Contributed by
Mallery Rockwell

What’s Happening?
Jamestown is ready to kick off the 2017 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival on August 3 to 6. Each year this remarkable festival welcomes 10 to 13,000 visitors from all over the country, filling the streets and helping out local businesses. The two main headliners, Jim Gaffigan and Kevin James, will take the stage August 3 and 4. Robert Klein, Lisa Lampanelli and more than 20 other comedians will bring their talented acts to Jamestown.

Roughly 250 volunteers are helping out with the Lucy Fest this year. In 2011, the direct economic impact on Chautauqua County was found to be $3.7 million, which includes direct visitor spending in Chautauqua County.

Downtown Jamestown Mural by artist Gary Peters Jr.

The Lucy Fest is a time for laughter, great food, music and grape stomping. On Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. people can give grape stomping a try at The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, just like Lucy did in “Lucy’s Italian Movie.” “It’s important for everyone to laugh, and Jamestown being the hometown of Lucille Ball, it’s important that we do something valuable with that special legacy,” said Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the National Comedy Center.

Enjoy a beer and listen to the progressive funk and soul band Smackdab as they play live music Thursday outside of the Northwest Arena. They will play before and after Jim Gaffigan’s performance and will take the stage at 6 p.m. The Porcelain Bus Drivers will also play live music before and after Kevin James, also on stage at 6 p.m.

Lucille Ball’s Cemetery Tour is a unique journey that includes a beautiful horse-drawn, covered carriage tour of Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown, NY. Participants will visit the resting places of Ball, her family, and others who have influenced her life. Lucille Ball’s Hometown Tour takes people to the house where she was born, the house where she grew up, and much more.

“Lucille Ball wanted her hometown to become a destination for comedy and I don’t think that there’s any better way to celebrate than with laughter,” Gunderson said.

What’s New?
This year for the first time the National Comedy Center is partnering with world-renowned Chautauqua Institution for a week of comedy titled “Comedy and the Human Condition,” July 31 through August 6. In-depth discussions will be staged throughout the week, including individual conversations between Kelly Carlin and David Steinberg and with W. Kamau Bell. “We anticipate people coming from far and wide, even topping last year, which welcomed visitors from 41 U.S. States,” Gunderson said.

Two exciting new exhibits will keep the spirit alive for two legendary comedians. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Desi Arnaz’s birth, the National Comedy Center will show archives of Desi Arnaz memorabilia at the Gateway Train Station August 3 through 5. The National Comedy Center will also display Stuff I Saved-A Glimpse into the Carlin Archive, a preview exhibit of the George Carlin archives acquired in 2016. The Carlin exhibit is available to the public July 31 through August 5. Both exhibits are free.

“It’s going to be absolutely incredible,” Gunderson said. The exhibit includes his hand-written joke files ¬¬– his thoughts on paper that were developed into full bits that became part of HBO specials. Carlin noted his own reactions and reviewed himself after performing on late night shows. “He would often say whether a joke bombed, or make a note that it succeeded. You can see how he personally archived his own career. It’s really fascinating,” Gunderson said. The exhibit includes never-before-heard audio of the famous event at Summerfest, when Carlin was pulled off stage and arrested for profanity.

The festival is always on the minds of people involved and planning begins well in advance. “We definitely get a lot of support from everywhere and when this festival ends it’s not long before I’m thinking about next year,” said Steve Neilans, Operator of Marketing and Communications for the National Comedy Center.

Connections Galore
Neilans said the world-class comedians have been tweeting at the National Comedy Center throughout the year about their excitement for the festival. “It’s fun to bring this level of quality of acts to the area. It’s fun to make people happy and have a day or night where they can go laugh and have a good time with friends and family,” Neilans said.

Kevin James tweeted, “Jamestown… More like Kevin James’town… yeah, I said it. Hope to see you there.”

Kelly Carlin tweeted, “Can’t wait to spend the week at @chq w/ @TheLewisBlack & @david_steinberg laughing in the amphitheater.”

Rondell Sheridan tweeted, “Great news. I’m joining a ton of legendary comics in #JamestownNY during the 2017 #lucycomedyfest C’mon get your funny ON! @NtlComedyCenter”

Comedy Late Night is always a hit, taking place in a re-creation of Ricky Ricardo’s famous Manhattan nightclub, the Tropicana Room. It is a place where talented comedians are booked to perform their newest acts. One of the acts includes Moody McCarthy, a stand-up comedian who has performed on Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Last Comic Standing, and Star Search.

Brian Regan was a headline performer for the festival in 2016. Neilans said that after the show he went to Comedy Late Night and saw Steven Rogers, a comedian from Syracuse, performing. Regan thought he was funny and asked Rogers if he wanted to open for him on his tour. “These connections are being made, and cool stories like this happen here in Jamestown,” Neilans said.

For tickets, pricing and other information, visit www.lucycomedyfest.com. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 716-484-0800, or by visiting the festival box office located at 2 W. 3rd Street, Jamestown, NY 14701.